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  • We’ve recently published an article in CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly on the three things that a supply chain manager should know about Big Data and Analytics. The three things are: Big Data is not just for the IT Department There is more than one type of analytics Machine Learning has many potential supply chain applications Follow... Read More »
  • I’ve recently read the book Scaling Up Excellence by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao. ( Click here is you want a 14-minute HBR podcast interview or click here for a 60 minute presentation at Standford by Sutton) The book has some great lessons for how to take a good idea within an organization and scale it throughout an... Read More »
  • Three Ways the Supply Chain Wastes Big Data

    Michael Watson Ph.D Nov 4th, 2014
    One of the important lessons from the analytics movement is that you should take advantage of the data you are already collecting.   There could be a lot of value and insight in this data. In a recent article on Supply Chain Digest, we talk about 3 ways the supply chain is wasting this data.... Read More »
  • Modeling the Competition

    Michael Watson Ph.D Nov 3rd, 2014
    When making strategic decisions, it is often important to understand what your competition is doing. I recently wrote a short article Supply Chain Digest and did an interview (about the 3:30 mark) on Supply Chain TV sponsored by CSCMP highlighting how companies with high transportation spend can model their competitors.  These models help you understand your competitor’s... Read More »
  • Fortune 500 companies are big enough, and have enough resources, to assemble and run their own internal analytics teams. In today’s environment, it is impossible for a large corporation to succeed without employing analytics. The situation is completely different if we make a step down to small and medium business (SMBs), which are typically corporations... Read More »
  • Needless to say, there can be no analytics project without data. A project starts by identifying data, cleansing it, performing analytics, and then conveying the results or solutions. The rule of thumb is that 70 to 80 percent of the total timeframe for an analytics project is spent on data preparation and a much smaller... Read More »
  • The biggest grunts about Hadoop is its batch processing focus and the fact that iterative algorithms cannot be written efficiently. For this reason it is mostly used in data lakes for storing huge datasets together with its ETL/ELT capabilities and for running ad-hoc queries with map reduce. In-memory database on the other hand offer great... Read More »
  • Just-In-Time and Lean Concepts in New Areas

    Michael Watson Ph.D Oct 20th, 2014
    JIT (or “Just-in-time” and later morphed into being called Lean) started out as part of Toyota’s manufacturing strategy where parts were delivered to the assembly line just when needed.  This not only helped reduce the cost of the items, it also forced Toyota to be more disciplined and that led to even bigger savings.  ... Read More »
  • Want to process real-time data? Web anyone? Or IoT or the industrial internet! You can fire spouts and bolts in Storm and get “whoops, one of our assembly machines is about to experience problems!” For decades companies were able to use RDMS and data cubes to find out what revenue would be lost if an... Read More »
  • Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Review section ran a long article from Walter Isaacson on artificial intelligence.   The overall article was very interesting, but two key points are worth mentioning.  One, the arrival of true artificial intelligence (a machine’s ability to think like a person and innovate– or even become super smart and... Read More »
  • Today, I was watching the PSU-NU game on the Big Ten Network when an ad came on for Case New Holland’s AFS Connect system (a farm management system).  At first blush, there is nothing new about farm equipment manufacturers advertising on the Big Ten network.  A lot of farmers watch Big Ten games. But, what... Read More »
  • Big Data does not mean you have Clean Data

    Michael Watson Ph.D Aug 27th, 2014
    In all the hype around Big Data, it is often forgotten that you still need to spend time cleaning data so you can use it efficiently. We just published an article in Supply Chain Digest highlighting this fact.  Our article points to two interesting references that back this up:  a blurb from a Freakanomics podcast... Read More »
  • A recent Economist article (Little things that mean a lot) on Big Data discussed that the use of data can actually help find many small changes that add up to large impacts over time.  This is in contrast to the idea that Big Data will help you uncover a single insight which will change your... Read More »
  • Another Benefit of Analytics: Recruiting Talent

    Michael Watson Ph.D Jun 11th, 2014
    One of the overlooked side benefits of building internal analytics capability is recruiting talent. Universities are rapidly creating new analytics courses and programs because top students and future business leaders are demanding it.  And, these students are eager to take their skills to companies that are doing interesting work in analytics. If your organization is... Read More »
  • Distance matrices of different varieties have applications throughout the field of analytics; though the computation varies depending on the application, they always serve the same purpose: providing a pairwise measure of difference between all data points.  Some applications require geographical distance matrices; these can prove computationally intensive if the distances between geographies is on the... Read More »
  • Big Data Applied to the Supply Chain

    Michael Watson Ph.D Apr 14th, 2014
    This week, Dan Gilmore of Supply Chain Digest wrote about Big Data in the Supply Chain.   It was a well-balanced article, covering both the hype and some nice solutions.  Here is one quote: …For example, Ron Volpe of Kraft said his company (as are others) is working on tying together mountains of data from POS sales,... Read More »
  • In manufacturing environment, companies use an automated setup of tanks and hoist for chemical cleaning and coating processes. In this setup, various chemicals kept in tanks situated on a straight line and a hoist moves jobs between tanks according to job operation time and sequence. This setup is costly and can be a bottleneck process... Read More »
  • Yesterday’s WSJ ran an article on the importance of analytics (“Get Familiar With Big Data Now—or Face ‘Permanent Pink Slip’“- may be behind a paywall). The article is an interview with an executive recruiter, Linda Burtch, who has helped staffed the analytics groups at Darden Restaurants, Jack in the Box, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Foot Locker,... Read More »
  • Earlier this week, I wrote an article for Supply Chain Digest about enhancing your network design capabilities with a map portal: Since the mapping in a network design projects leads to so much value, you should considering providing this type of visualization on an on-going basis.  You can get a lot more value if your... Read More »
  • The use of analytics in sports is quite well known.  The Oakland A’s popularized analytics by using it to build winning teams with a minimal budget— we mentioned and extended this case in our book.  Recently, ESPN Magazine ran a special “Analytics Issue.” Late last year we were approached by Roger Goodell of the NFL to... Read More »
  • Top Five Skills Needed For Supply Chain Modeler

    Michael Watson Ph.D Mar 24th, 2014
    I recently wrote an article for Supply Chain Digest on the Top Five skills you need in a supply chain modeler.  They are: Ability to manipulate large data sets Ability to understand trade-offs in the supply chain Ability to separate the important from the trivial Ability to troubleshoot Ability to communicate the results Be sure... Read More »
  • Predictions that Save Big Money

    Sara Lewis Mar 19th, 2014
    Why is it that your car always seems to breakdown during your busiest week at work? Farmers fear the inevitable failure of their combine equipment during the peak of harvest season.  Plant managers struggle with knowing when and how their manufacturing equipment is causing the deterioration of the quality of their products. Situations such as... Read More »
  • Whether you are developing more complex optimization models or beginning to formulate solutions including technologies such as LogicNet Plus or R, one thing will remain the same.  The focal point of any supply chain analytics project starts with ‘the data’. As a consultant, I spend a lot of my time cleaning, rationalizing, and formatting data.... Read More »
  • Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Who Needs to Know How to Code” that suggested the many executives should learn about coding: Even people who don’t plan on becoming developers may hear at work that they ought to learn to code. American Express Co.,General Electric Co. , Staples Inc., Merck & Co., Inc. and PepsiCo Inc.  have worked with General Assembly... Read More »
  • Supply Chain Digest just released a very nice report on the current state of supply chain planning.  I wrote a follow-on article commenting on the section about the biggest supply chain technology barriers.   (This link will take you to my article where you can find a link to the report). Here is an excerpt:... Read More »
  • We recently had the privilege  to work with two Georgia Tech students (Chandreshekar Sundaresan and Seth Webster) on a white paper that explored the relationship between inventory and the number of warehouses in your supply chain. This paper goes much deeper than the much quoted “square root of N” rule.  You will find that the... Read More »
  • New Book to Help Managers Understand Analytics

    Michael Watson Ph.D Jan 13th, 2014
    We have recently published a new book to help managers understand the field of analytics.  This book will help you learn what the field of analytics is all about and how it can help you and your organization.  We based this book on the class we teach at Northwestern, the work we have done in... Read More »
  • The Wall Street Journal recently reported the continued rise of heat maps to track customers in stores (“Tracking Technology Sheds Light on Shopper Habits”).  This is not a new trend.  An article in the Economist last year pointed out the rise of in-store cameras to track customers. Both these articles point out that this trend... Read More »
  • A recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Bonanza in Smarter Flu Tracking,” discusses tracking the outbreak of flu to better predict demand. The article notes that companies selling flu related products can boost sales by timing the ads and arrival of product to a market at the start of the flu season in that area.... Read More »